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Romney and Kennedy vs. Evangelical Prejudice

Our friend Chuck Dunn has identified seven key parallels between the Romney and Kennedy campaigns. I’m inclined to add seven key differences. Here’s just one: Kennedy didn’t really overcome the evangelical/fundamentalist prejudice against him all that well, but he compensated with a huge prejudice in his own direction. He got an overwhelming majority of the Catholic vote. No doubt Romney will get an overwhelming majority of the Mormon vote. But that’s a lot smaller percentage of the electorate, even in the Republican primaries. And in November, it’s hard to see how the Mormons can become much more overwhelmingly Republican than they already are. I hope Chuck is right that Mitt is as charismatic as Jack.

Discussions - 8 Comments

I hope Chuck is right that Mitt is as charismatic as Jack.

Doesn’t matter, we’re comparing Catholicism to Mormonism here; minus a divine revelation striking the country Romney’s a no go.

I think you’ve basically blown Mr. Dunn’s argument out of the water. Lots and lots of Catholics. Many, many fewer Mormons. Case closed.

Not that Romney is necessarily unelectable. But the JFK parallels (aside from Romney’s wealth) strike me as almost completely irrelevant.

Dunn may also be right that Mrs. Romney could prove to be an asset. She is definitely good-looking, and a conspicuously loyal first wife, given the other Republicans running, could matter. She could also matter if Shrillary is the nominee. But still, most of his JFK parallels are mere historical curiosities. They don’t add up to many votes at all.

I’m worried that Romney will have very little appeal outside the Republican base, which is smaller and will be smaller than it was in ’04, when we barely won against a crappy opponent.

JFK had a Democrat machine behind him as well. If votes were needed in Illinois say, then sufficient votes could be found in Chicago, so as to deliver the state.

That’s one hell of an advantage.

Moreover, JFK had the advantage of the wars. The Great War, the Second World War and Korea ALL had the effect of intermingling Protestants and Catholics. This served to reduce the intensity of the prejudice against Catholics. It’s a little bit hard to be ferociously anti-Catholic when one of the men in your squad, a guy who relied, and who relied on you, was Catholic, as were one or two replacements for your squad.

All of this martial interaction and martial cooperation allowed ordinary Protestants to see that their Catholic neighbors would fight for the country, were American, and were American first.

The black legends of the past, protestant propaganda, gave way before the ecumenism forged in the trenches. Men like "Commando" Kelly, men like Tommy McGuire, his squadron commander, Lynch, men like George Welch, such men, AND MANY MORE, paved the way for JFK. And what’s more, there was a certain aspect of guilt. There were many Protestants who realized that a disservice had been done, that a suspicion lingered, and they were conscious of that.

And now, 40 plus years later, we see a different society. George Bush, Protestant, took more Catholic votes than the ostensibly "Catholic" candidate, John Francois Kerry.

But any comparisons between Mormonism and a 2,000 year old Church, are likely to be stretched.

I have a different take on this. In 1960 there was still some anti-papist sentiment to overcome and I’m sure evangelicals were not crazy about a Catholic president.

But that is 47 years ago. Now, I would think any fervently believing person would be *grateful* for any sort of true Christian president, and to put yourself forth as a Mormon candidate takes a lot of guts. It’s got to be real, right? It would have been so much safer to drift to Episcopalianism. It’s slim pickings for believers these days so evangelicals ought to be more sympathetic to Romney than their parents would be been in 1960.

But that’s starting from the position that the world has already gone to hell in a handbasket, and NOT the 1960 presumption that all good candidates are also good believing Christians anyway and that the question was whether Catholics are Christians (still unsettled in some circles).

While Carol touches on the issue from a religious standpoint (voters concerned about who is a good Christian), the bigger issue is the secular side. Voters are concerned with what implications a person’s religion will have on their secular policy. Those who are a little too overt (Brownback who has pork-barrel prophecies) do not get the trust of the majority because we fear their religious passions will trump our secular national interest.

This was the main of the Kennedy-Catholic concern. People feared a Catholic President would allow the church to meddle in secular affairs. The same can be said of Romney today. Protestant Presidents are safer because they have no centralized church to look to for advice; therefore, no church body will be meddling with secular Protestants. Some may be concerned with the religious side, but most are just leary of any church entering the secular.

I’d never vote for Romney. Unless a real conservative is chosen, I’m voting third party

Carol’s point goes farther than she herself suggested. Look at the causes that Romney’s jettisoned, look at the positions he’s flipped on. But now look at his religion, WHICH HE HASN’T thrown over to advance his career.

But I’m not looking for religious fervour.

I’m looking for someone who is competent, who will overhaul our government, who will unleash and unload upon our enemies, who will stop uttering platitudes about islam, who will stop mentioning "mosques" in the same breath as "churches and synagogues," who in short, will govern consistent with, and not in defiance of the platform of the GOP.

I don’t want a religious fraud. If that was the case, I’d a supported Meirs for the high court.

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